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Blackboard is a web based online course management system that allows instructors to add course content for students to access. Blackboard was founded in 1997 and through the years has made updates to make its system appealing to the consumer. It has a recent application called Blackboard Sync. This provides access for users to link from Facebook. Blackboard Sync is an application that delivers Blackboard course information and updates through Facebook to keep students connected with their academic studies. This is just one of the recent advances in an effort to reach out to digital learners. Blackboard also has new software applications for professional development and the k-12 learning communities.
Blackboard is available for instructors and students who want to participate in online learning. Instructors Students
Instructors can: Students can: share course materials access course syllabus communicate with students/ be more accessible to students access course materials/ assignments/assessments/ grades/ use Bb for large storage of course content participate in synchronous/synchronous communication use Bb to deliver whole course content or as a supplement for f2f learning e-mail/chat/message accommodate different learning styles receive content delivered in a variety of multimedia formats assess and evaluate student progress access 24/7
Strengths of the Platform The key to its great success is the ease of navigation. You access the Blackboard site from any internet connection. You click the login button, add your user name and password to view the course’s main page. Another strength of the platform is that it is widely used by many universities. This has created a comfort level of familiarity for both instructors and learners. While other platforms such as WebCT offer a great product, converting populations is a challenge so Blackboard (Bb) has many faithful followers. The interface is intuitive which users appreciate.
Instructors like to have more ownership in structuring/designing the e learning environment. Blackboard is more of a model template from which you plug in your course content. An improvement would be for Bb to offer instructors more freedom in setting up the course site.
Schools that use the Blackboard learning platform take the students through an orientation session. Students learn how to access course content and materials as well
as learn the features and tools used for the course. A navigation bar on the course website page assists the student to access different sections with great ease.
Students have reported that the instructor’s orientation session gives the student enough time to feel comfortable navigating the site. Technical support is available through links to FAQ and/or contacting the school’s tech support center by phone or email.
Recommendations For professional development: Many teachers are looking for a change in the delivery of staff development. Blackboard can be used to deliver traditional f2f PD in a more appealing medium. Some schools are using a blended model which is very popular. Offering a blended model gives teachers some traditional f2f time as well as online time. This decreases travel time which teachers have related is an issue. They love the convenience that e-learning offers and it saves on gas mileage too. It can offer ongoing and relevant topics when and where teachers need it. For students: Using Blackboard in the K-12 environment can provide students with an alternative way to receive instruction from traditional f2f learning. It can be useful to target certain students such as those that live in rural areas, students that are hospitalized, students needing AP classes, and summer classes too. It has also been noted that online learning keeps more children in a learning environment and decreases the drop-out rate. Parents also like being able to access their child’s assignments and grades.